The writings and information appearing on this website reflect an expression of the personal views and opinions of Simon Park, Full Licensed Immigration Adviser of New Zealand and had been prepared for the intended reference by interested individuals and is not designed to create an adviser-client communication.
Writings from this site may be reproduced for the personal, non-commercial use of interested individuals on the express or implied condition that the contents herein are not edited, modified nor altered in whole or in part, directly or indirectly without the express written consent of the author herein.
As an immigration law practice firm, we take privacy very seriously. In case we collect information from you from this website, direct contact or via email from you, we do not share this information with anyone. We only use your information to respond to you, regarding the reason you contacted us. Your information is protected online and offline.
The Privacy Act has been setting the boundaries for our right to privacy since 1993. The Act mainly deals with the collection and disclosure of personal information. We explain the basic principles of the Act and its limitations, describe the complaints process, and look at ways in which the Act could be improved.
What the Act covers
The Privacy Act 1993 deals mainly with the collection and disclosure of personal information. It’s more about information privacy than other aspects of privacy.
The Act has 12 principles that stipulate how information can be collected and used, and people’s rights to gain access to that information and ask for it to be corrected.
Principle 1: Purpose of collection of personal information. An agency may only collect personal information where it is needed to perform a function or activity of the agency.
Principle 2: Source of personal information. The agency must collect the information directly from the person concerned. There are exceptions: for example, where the person agrees otherwise, or where the information is publicly available.
Principle 3: Collection of information from the subject. The agency must take all reasonable efforts to ensure the person is aware that the information is being collected, what it will be used for, the recipients of the information, whether the supply of the information is voluntary or mandatory, the consequences of not providing the information and the person’s rights of access to and correction of the information.
Principle 4: Manner of collection of personal information. Personal information must not be collected in an unlawful, unfair or intrusive fashion.
Principle 5: Storage and security of personal information. The agency must ensure the information is protected against loss, misuse, or unauthorised disclosure.
Principle 6: Access to personal information. Where the information can be readily retrieved, the individual is entitled to confirmation of whether the information is held, and to have access to it. There are exceptions, for example, where disclosure would prevent detection of a criminal offence, or would involve a breach of someone else’s privacy.
Principle 7: Correction of personal information. Individuals may request correction of information held. Where this is not agreed to by the agency, the individual may request that the information is tagged with a statement that the correction was sought and was refused.
Principle 8: Accuracy of personal information to be checked before use. The agency must not use the information without taking reasonable steps to ensure it is accurate, up-to-date, complete, relevant and not misleading.
Principle 9: Agency not to keep personal information for longer than necessary. The agency must not keep the information for any longer than it is needed for the purposes for which it was collected.
Principle 10: Limits on use of personal information. Information collected for one purpose must not be used for any other purpose. There are exceptions: for example, where the agency reasonably believes the individual has authorised the further use, or that the information was from a publicly available publication.
Principle 11: Limits on disclosure of personal information. The information must not be disclosed except in certain situations. These include where the disclosure is directly related to the purpose for which the information was collected, where the source of the information is a publicly available publication, and where the disclosure is authorised by the individual concerned.
Principle 12: Unique identifiers. An agency must not assign a unique identifier to an individual unless doing so is necessary for the agency to carry out its functions efficiently. Where doing so is necessary, agencies must not use a unique identifier that has been assigned to that individual by another agency (the only exception is for certain taxation purposes).
The Act covers government agencies, local councils, businesses, and individuals. There are some exceptions – for example, the news media, members of Parliament, the Governor-General, ombudsmen, and the courts are not covered by the Act.
The privacy law doesn’t just apply to clients and customers – all personal information is covered, including information about employees. All organisations are required to have a privacy officer to deal with privacy issues.
The Privacy Commissioner’s role
The Privacy Commissioner provides advice and education on privacy, investigates complaints, evaluates new legislation that may impinge on an individual’s rights, reviews data-matching programs, and issues codes of practice.
Codes of practice cover specific industries, agencies, activities, or types of personal information. Codes often adapt the provisions of the Act to a particular circumstance, group of organisations or type of information.
Two codes that most affect the lives of consumers are the Credit Reporting Privacy Code and the Health Information Privacy Code. Information about both these codes is on the Privacy Commissioner’s website.
Limitations of the Act As the Privacy Act is a principle-based system, it is not enforceable in court. An aggrieved individual must make a complaint (see below) to the Privacy Commissioner alleging an “interference with privacy”. The Commissioner has no powers to fine or prosecutes anyone or order an organisation to pay compensation.
There is an important exception – principle 6 (Access to personal information) is enforceable in court if it relates to personal information held by a public sector agency.
The Privacy Act can’t override other Acts that authorise or require personal information to be made available. Where it comes into conflict with the provisions of another Act, the other Act takes precedence. For example, schools must work within the Education Act. If the Privacy Act conflicted with the Education Act, the Education Act would override the Privacy Act.
A licensed immigration adviser must: a. preserve the confidentiality of the client except in the following circumstances: i. with the client’s written consent, or ii. if making a complaint to the Immigration Advisers Authority relating to another adviser or reporting an alleged offence under the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007, or iii. for the administration of the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007, or iv. as required by law, and
b. require that any employees or other persons engaged by the adviser also preserve the confidentiality of the client.